The House public education budget would be extra kind to charter schools next year, pumping $200 million into charters specifically targeting children stuck in persistently low-performing classrooms.
The money would provide grants to “charter school networks with a proven track record of serving specifically low-income students and successfully closing the achievement gap,” said Manny Diaz Jr., chairman of the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.
Separate legislation to provide the details — including how to target the students most in need — is still being worked out, he added.
“We have a school that has failed for 10 years. Every aspect of the turnaround process has been tried there,” Diaz said.
“This is intensive care,” he said. “This is one of those intensive tools to go after that.”
The existing public schools would operate alongside the charters.
“We consider this an emergency, and so there has to be a streamlined process to get those providers into those situations,” Diaz said.
An analysis of school performance as of the 2015-16 school year showed that 495 — 15 percent of the total — scored D or F on their evaluations, Diaz told committee members.
Sixty were “persistently low-performing” — meaning they’d lagged for five years or more.
Students attending those schools number 33,400 students, he said.
Democrats expressed skepticism, worried about spending public dollars outside public classrooms.
Diaz wants to give more money to teachers, too, including $200 million to make Best and Brightest Scholarship bonuses available to more teachers.
The Senate has expressed interest in boosting the program, but has yet to commit money.
“The speaker’s committed to rewarding these teachers. If you expand the criteria, you have to make a financial commitment to go along with it,” Diaz said.
He added that the subcommittee would not vote on the package.
“The next stop for our budget is full Appropriations Committee next week, on Wednesday, April 5, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” he said.
The overall pre-K-through-12 budget would total $15.1 billion, a 5.75 percent increase. State general revenues comprise $12 billion of that.
State contributions to school districts would increase by $251.6 million, for a total of $20.4 billion.
But — unlike Gov. Rick Scott and the Senate — the House doesn’t wants to capture higher real estate values collected via local property taxes. It would lower those rates to collect the same about as last year — savings to taxpayers of nearly $510 million.
Does Diaz see room for compromise?
“I think the speaker was quoted as saying ‘Hell no on raising taxes,’ so I’m just going to defer to his quote.”
As with the other budget subcommittees in the House, Diaz targeted jobs that have been unfilled for more than 180 days for elimination — here, 1,060 positions.
The House budget subcommittees were instructed to come up with “A” scenario and “B” scenario plans — the first involving cuts of about $1 billion; the latter, about $2 billon. Budget chairman Carlos Trujillo has also discussed a target of $1.4 billion in cuts.
The targets reflect flattening tax proceeds.